Scow tragedy at Beverly dam

By October 1914 Beverly had nearly recovered from the devastating flood of one and one half years before. Most of the wrecked buildings and various kinds of debris had been cleaned up. The new Beverly-Waterford bridge was completed. The dam across the Muskingum, which had been mostly washed away, was being reconstructed. Concrete would replace what was left of the old wooden parts.

By all accounts the day shift began as usual about 8 A.M. at the Beverly dam on Tuesday, October 20, 1914. Bates and Rogers Company of Chicago, Illinois, had the contract to do the work on the dam. They had employed workers, including fifty Turks who had been hired at Cleveland. They had already spent most of the summer and fall doing the repair work. The tragic events of that day were reported in The Beverly Dispatch on October 23, 1914, which is the source of all the quotes in this article. A typed, framed copy is on display at the Oliver Tucker Museum.

Work resumed above the dam soon after the day shift began. There was a large part of the dam missing and water rushed through the hole with a frightening roar. The article states, “a scow loaded with timbers taken from the old wooden structure sank as it was being hauled along a cable to the west bank of the river.” There were nine men on board, seven of whom drowned. The victims were John Stevens, age 28, an American, and six Turks. The names of the Turks, which are spelled in a variety of ways in different sources, will be discussed in the next article. Joe Ritchie, also an American, was the only one who knew how to swim and he survived the ordeal. He stayed afloat in the rapid current and was swept several hundred feet below the dam until he reached a gravel bar where he was rescued. The other survivor was a Turk who clung to the end of the scow that was held out of the water by the cable. The men were burdened with heavy clothing and rubber boots, which made it more difficult to stay afloat.

When the first Turk was pulled to shore along Hayward Beach on the western bank of the river, several Turks on the Beverly side were taken across in a boat. The remaining Turks, so impatient they did not want to wait for another boat, ran one half mile down to the Beverly-Waterford bridge, crossed the river, and ran the half mile up the river to the beach. Loud screams and chants rang out along the way.

The Kindle brothers, James W. (b. 1873) and Clarence (b. 1893), displayed remarkable bravery during the disaster. Their john-boats were above the dam, but when they noticed what happened, both men “shot their little crafts over the dam and through the breakers in order to be quickly on the scene.” Clarence rescued the sole Turk survivor and James took Ritchie ashore after he had reached the gravel bar. The Kindles were sons of James W. and Julia Early Kindle of Beverly.

Witnesses stated that the scow was not overloaded, “but that it reached a point where the water was unusually swift, and being sidewise to the current, it dipped water over the side and immediately began to settle.” The seven men went under and their lifeless bodies were found some time later by search parties, who had shown up shortly after the accident with boats, poles and grappling hooks. County Coroner J. D. Parr of Marietta viewed the bodies and announced the cause of death was accidental drowning. The bodies were then taken to the rooms of the undertaker, Lonnie A. Dixon, in Beverly.

In accordance with their own customs, the Turks wanted an immediate burial. Six graves were dug side by side in the Beverly Cemetery by the countrymen of the victims. During the evening of the tragedy, the six were buried in the clothes they wore to work. In every aspect their burial was in accordance with the customs of their native country. The paper reported, “Barefooted and with palms upturned and extended in an attitude of devotions, a prayer to Allah was solemnly voiced for each of the dead. One by one the caskets were then lowered in the graves, which were immediately covered with earth. Water was generously poured over the new made mounds, significant of the manner of death.”

The last minutes of the service were profoundly touching. “Kneeling about the last resting place of their friends and comrades,” the paper reported, “the sorrowing Turks concluded the ceremonies of burial with a number of dirge-like chants and a reading from the Koran.” The newspaper concluded, “The scene was one of impressive solemnity and many of those who stood by, viewing with interest the sacred customs of the far eastern country, were deeply move[d].” By Thursday morning the remaining forty-five Turks, not wanting to work at the scene any longer, departed for Cleveland. According to a list of Beverly Cemetery burials recorded at McCurdy Funeral Home, the Turks are buried in Block 5, Section 2, Lots 104 and 105. A bill for $80 was paid by the Turkish Counsel in Washington D. C. on February 26, 1915. The graves are unmarked.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.